Panel suggests changes in S.D. mental-health laws to help keep patients closer to home

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Legislature could be asked next year to allow more facilities in South Dakota to offer mental-health services for involuntary commitments.

A legislative panel proposed Monday making it easier to qualify.

Facilities wouldn’t have to offer in-patient services.

They would however need to have medical personnel available, either on-call or through tele-health.

The group is looking at ways to reduce ‘acute mental health hospitalizations’ –where people receive in-patient services to stay safe — and keep more people at facilities in their communities or local areas.

Members include state lawmakers and mental-health leaders from communities such as Rapid City, Yankton and Sioux Falls.

Amy Iversen-Pollreisz is a deputy secretary for the state Department of Social Services and serves on the panel. She said the department gets questions from providers about whether tele-health is allowed.

Tom Stanage, a psychologist and panel member, is executive director for the Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health Center headquartered at Yankton. He agreed with Iversen-Pollreisz.

“I think you don’t want to limit the availability by telephone,” Stanage said.

The study group is one of five the Legislature’s Executive Board appointed this year to focus on pieces of mental-health services in South Dakota.

Senator Alan Solano, a Rapid City Republican, chairs the hospitalizations panel. Solano’s hope is that making more facilities available to mental-health patients will help them stay near home.

In-patient care costs about $700 per day while counties pay about $600. Unresolved is how to re-invest savings to less-expensive community-based facilities, Solano said. “There certainly are ways to analyze that,” he said.

Representative Steven Haugaard serves on the panel. The Sioux Falls Republican has been chairman of the Minnehaha County Board of Mental Illness for more than 20 years.

Haugaard suggested Monday that better pay such as $20 per hour would be a way to get more people involved in day-to-day work of mental health services without requiring they have four-year bachelor degrees.

Haugaard said they could have four to six months of training and work under the guidance of qualified mental health professionals. “We need to do something to draw people into the field,” he said. “It’s a challenging field to start with,” he added.

The group also proposed that a person being held for a mental-health hearing be re-assessed each day.

State law currently requires only that within 24 hours “a qualified mental health professional designated by the chair of the county board serving the area where the person is detained other than the person bringing the petition or initiating the hold shall perform an examination, including a mental status examination, of the person.”

The panel reviewed a summary on Pennington County mental-health services by the National Council for Behavioral Health. The full report is here.

Panel member Barry Tice, director for Pennington County Health and Human Services, said the council made 13 recommendations in the report. “This has been a year in the making,” he said.

Tice said the council’s team visited with 83 people in the Rapid City area and South Dakota. He said the 83 had a variety of agendas that had to be consolidated.

Tice described the report as “a solid foundation and template” for Pennington County and South Dakota. He said the challenges weren’t anything that weren’t previously understood. “This really puts that information into real numbers,” he said.

The panel also discussed the challenge of a county trying to collect costs for a person’s mental-health services from the home county of the person. The Pennington County State’s Attorney Office raised it in a letter to the panel. Solano said it might need a separate study, and several panelists agreed.

“I think this is one that maybe is bigger than us right now,” member Steve Lindquist of Sioux Falls said.

“This really gets into some complexity when we’re talking payment,” Solano said.

Solano spoke with KELOLAND’s Capitol News Bureau Chief in the video attached to this story.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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